October 26, 2016

1949. The Fragile Beginnings of the Federal Republic of Germany

Amid Resistance, a New Capital is Established in Bonn
"Police clear the street for the arrival of members of the Upper House (Bundesrat) of the New West German Republic," September 7, 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Bonn

September 7, 1949

Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland—the Federal Republic of Germany—held its first parliamentary meeting two hours ago, thus marking September 7, 1949 a significant day in German history and one which the world will note as the second time in thirty years that this nation has sought government through democracy.

The upper house of the republic met this morning. The main body, the Bundestag, meets this afternoon. Both meetings are ceremonial and preliminary to the real work, which will begin next week.

These initial meetings today represent a victory by more than one thousand workmen who until dawn this morning were still sweeping construction materials from the aisles and the streets in front of the new provincial capital building.

High Commissioner John McCloy attended the opening session with his staff all dressed up in black coats and and striped trousers. Representing the United States occupation forces was General Thomas Handy, new military commander for Germany. The British and French high commissioners also are here.

The color motif of the ceremony was the red, black, and gold of the German national banner, and surrounding it were the flags of the eleven states. Significantly included in this lineup of banners was the flag of Berlin, for although Berlin is not officially a member of the new government, it has eight observers here who hope to persuade the republic to accept the city as a full-fledged state.

Dr. Karl Arnold, Minister President of the Ruhr state of North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected chairman of the upper house. He made a brief, formal speech pledging the government to be a servant of the people, but otherwise he said nothing of significance.

On the whole, the first meeting was conducted with great dignity, from the purple robes of the two Catholic bishops attending, to the top hats, wing collars, spats, and striped pants and morning coats worn by many of the delegates. The proceedings began and ended with music from the Haffner Serenade by Mozart.

Incidentally, this is the first trans-Atlantic transmission from the studios of the capital of the German Federal Republic. We will be reporting further from here. The news from the new German capital will play an increasingly important part in the pattern of the future. We hope that this news from Germany will be part of a pattern for peace.

This is Bill Downs in Bonn. Now back to CBS in New York.
Bill Downs

CBS Bonn (Murrow show)

September 7, 1949

Tonight the world has a new government on its hands in Bonn, the provisional capital of Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland—the Federal German Republic.

And today we saw the new German parliament formally take a tentative grip on the system of government called democracy. The upper house of the parliament met this morning, and the lower house completed its first meeting only a few hours ago.

All in all, it was a dignified performance. Whether it will grow into a truly democratic and free government has yet to be proved.

But the democratic processes are fermenting. At this morning's meeting of the upper house, there occurred an old-fashioned political double-cross. The body, controlled by the Christian Democratic party coalition, elected Dr. Karl Arnold of the Ruhr as its chairman. For weeks the CDU and others had hinted that the job would go to Dr. Hans Ehard, leader of the Bavarian wing of the party. The Bavarians are mad—not an uncommon occurrence among democratic politicians.

But this afternoon, at the meeting of the German house of representatives, came the most positive demonstration that the Germans are tired of saying "ja," which they did so monotonously under Hitler.

Elder statesman Paul Löbe gave the opening speech. He drew applause when he said that Berlin, his hometown, must eventually be the capital of a united Germany. He reviewed the sad events leading up to the Nazi dictatorship, calling it "the illegal government that took over in 1933."

At this point Max Reimann, the leader of the Communist delegation, interrupted with a shout: "Yes, and how many persons in this room made it possible for Hitler to come to power in 1933?"

The question went unanswered. At another point in Löbe's speech, the Christian Democratic members objected to the emphasis that the speaker was putting on his own party, the Socialists.

Hundreds of people stood in the rain today to watch the show; to see their delegates, the American, British, and French high commissioners, and other dignitaries.

Throughout the rain the black, red, and gold flag of the German republic bore its colors bravely. Germans tell a cynical story about this flag. The gold, they say, stands for the past. The red stands for the present . . . and the future is black.

But there was nothing in the first day's operation of the parliament to justify this cynicism. As a matter of fact, and with the usual reservations, it was a pretty good show.

This is Bill Downs in Bonn. Now back to Ed Murrow in New York.
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 9, 1949

The East German Communists have declared a propaganda war on the West German Republic of Bonn, and this morning all the standard old vilifications are being dragged out again to attack the political leaders now attempting to shape the destiny of the new state.

Initial reaction from the Soviet zone came today in headlines like this: "Germans, Wipe Out the Shame of Bonn. Another paper claims that "protestors come from all zones against the betrayal of the nation."

West German political leaders are called "splitters and quislings." Communist leader Wilhelm Pieck said in a broadcast last night that the Bonn government is not a German government. "The parliamentary farce staged in Bonn last Wednesday is nothing but a wholesale swindle," he declared.

Behind all these cries of "wolf" in the Russian zone, the Communists are doing some frantic political scrambling on their own. I learned that leaders of the Soviet-licensed political parties last weekend met with Ambassador Semyonov concerning elections in East Germany to establish a Russian-sponsored state. According to one Russian political adviser: "Russia regrets that the Western powers have taken the initiative for the political reorganization of the German state," he said. The Soviet Union was hesitant about being the first to bring about the complete division of the country. According to my information, this official said that Moscow now has sent concrete instructions for the foundation of an East German government, with orders for the Soviet military administration to carry them out.

In Bonn itself, Dr. Konrad Adenauer is trying to solve a crisis in his own Christian Democratic party. The Bavarian wing of the party is threatening to revolt over the failure to get their man, Dr. Hans Ehard, elected as president of the senate.

In Munich, funeral preparations are underway for composer Richard Strauss, who died yesterday at the age of 85. Before his death, Strauss requested that no flowers be sent to his funeral—that instead contributions be made to a fund for aging musicians.

Also in Bavaria, German authorities have arrested Hermann Esser, the fugitive former Bavarian economics minister there under Hitler. Esser was picked up when he contacted a local publisher about printing a book he had just completed. The name of the book was to be: "Adolf Hitler, the Great Lover."

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.